Archived Story

Tryon reviews water shortage response plan

Published 6:18pm Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tryon water customers will be receiving notice that a draft water shortage response plan is up for review with the plan having council members talking worst-case scenarios.
Council has reviewed the plan, required by the state, in its last few meetings and made final changes on Sept. 18.
Council members said they had issues with some of the sections of the plan, particularly where the state’s recommendation was to require the town to charge 50 and 100 percent of minimum rates during stage IV water restrictions for customers who go over the minimum usage. Stage IV (emergency) is the next to last stage, with stage V (crisis) being the town rationing and supplying bottled water to customers. Stage IV restrictions call for customers to use the town’s water only for drinking water and cooking purposes.
Council agreed to change the stage IV restriction penalties to 10 and 20 percent instead of 50 and 100 percent of water charges. If the town enters stage IV water restrictions, the draft plan now states “a surcharge of 10 percent of the minimum usage rate will be added to each water bill where customer usage surpasses minimum usage. If customer usage is ‘equal to or more than’ double the minimum usage rate, a surcharge of 20 percent of the minimum usage rate will be added.”
Commissioner Wim Woody brought up concerns regarding the penalties and said he disagrees with penalizing anyone.
“I’d like to eliminate (the penalties),” Woody said. “I think voluntary restrictions will work and don’t think we need to subject citizens to that kind of penalty.”
Town attorney Bailey Nager said the charges would be on an individual basis and the state requires the town to add a new consequence at each stage.
“The next stage is rationing, where you are actually distributing bottles of water to everyone,” said Nager. “You may be at the point [during stage IV] where people need to be conserving to 150 gallons.”
At stage IV mandatory water restrictions, the draft plan also requires the town fire department to bring in non-potable water by truck to be used for toilet flushing and other uses that do not require potable water. The National Guard may also be asked to assist the town during stage IV restrictions through their “water buffalo” wagons. During stage IV restrictions, the town is to establish an account with a potable water bottling company in preparation of buying large amounts of bottled water, the draft plans says.
Council also reviewed what the town would do if stage V restrictions were ever warranted. Stage V restrictions would mean customers are not allowed to use the town’s water for any reason. That would mean Tryon would have no water, and neither would any of its joint systems, including Saluda, Hendersonville, Asheville, Columbus and Polk County.
“When we have a problem, other areas will, too,” said Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples. “If we don’t have water you have to assume others don’t either. I don’t care how we cut it, it’s not going to be pretty.”
In the event of stage V restrictions, the town will be required to provide bottled water to its customers by setting up locations to distribute the water.
The town’s plan will now follow the state drought monitor, which is updated every Thursday at www.ncdrought.org.
Tryon will be in stage 0 (voluntary conservation) when the state drought monitor map puts Polk County in the Abnormally Dry category.
Stage 1 (voluntary) restrictions begin when the state map places Polk in D1 Moderate Drought conditions. Stage I restrictions include for it to be unlawful to water lawns and gardens, fill swimming pools and wash vehicles, among other restrictions.
Stage II (mandatory 1) restrictions will begin when the map places Polk in D2 Severe Drought conditions. Stage II’s additional restrictions make it unlawful to serve the town’s water in restaurants for drinking water and using air conditioners that do not recycle water.
Stage III (mandatory II) restrictions will begin when the map places Polk in D3 Extreme Drought conditions. Stage III restrictions add as unlawful uses such activities as any outdoor watering and using commercial air conditioning at any time other than regular business hours.
Stage IV (Emergency) restrictions begin when the drought map places Polk in D4 Exceptional Drought conditions or if there is no water flowing over the Lake Lanier weir.
Stage V (rationing) can also be declared if there is no water flowing over the Lake Lanier weir.
The plan has to be adopted by the town every five years and approved by the state.
Council members made the finals changes to the draft and approved it going forward with the public review process. A public hearing will be required before the town adopts the plan and sends it to the state for approval.
The draft plan can be viewed at Tryon Town Hall.

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